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17 August 2017

Today I have learnt to do a Blog in anticipation of my big trip to Europe.  I say Europe but in actual fact, I am going to Paris and then getting a train down to St Jean Pied de Port and walking the Way of St James – the Camino de Compostella – from France across the top of Spain into Santiago – 800kms.

Two weeks until I fly out of Sydney off on my big adventure.  It has been a while since I travelled to the northern hemisphere and I am sure I will see a lot of changes but this will add to the experience and adventure I am about to embark on.

 

 

Cycling through Brittany and the Loire Valley

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10 days to go

Hi everyone, I am starting up the blog again as I am about to head off on another adventure  back to Europe.

This time I am taking my bike and going with 9 others from my cycling group here in Leichhardt in Sydney and we are heading to Brittany, cycling around the Normandy beaches, visiting the Bayeaux Tapestries and stopping in medieval towns along the way.

After a week of that we are heading down to the Loire Valley where we will stay in the one place for the whole week and do daily cycles.

It is Spring in France right now so should be wonderful.

Here is the first of many photos

See you in France

Singapore 

The final leg of the holiday and the final blog.

What a trip I have had! By the time I get home on Friday I will have been away 9 weeks.   

Arrived in Singapore on Monday morning early.  The plane was early and I was through with my bags in record time.  

Jo was there to get me and I walked out of the terminal into Singapore’s lovely humid, overcast weather.  

Taxi to Jo’s lovely apartment and a shower and out of my walking clothes.  I had worn the same clothes for 8 weeks (I had washed them) and it was wonderful to get out of them.  

Jo had been in Sydney just as I left so she bought a bag up to Singapore with her so I didn’t have to carry them all over Europe.  

Put on the swimming costume and down to the massive pool for a swim and lounge around.   Very refreshing.  

It was then time for some long overdue treatment so we walked down the street for a massage which was fantastic.  Got out a few knots in the legs and shoulders.  Lunch around the corner and then over the road for a manicure.

It was quite funny because when I left London it was only 11am so not very tired.  Watched a few movies and by the time I got to Singapore it was only 10.30/11pm London time so I hadn’t slept.

I fell asleep having a massage even though it was a very hard one.  Then I couldn’t keep my eyes open while having a manicure and Jo was having a pedicure and talking to me and I would just fall asleep!

Got home and we just hung out which was lovely.  Caught up, watched some Australian news and I had to go to bed.

Hit the pillow and didn’t hear anything until 5.30 the next morning. 

Tuesday dawned and we played tourist.  Got a cab into town and got tickets for the hop on hop off bus which had 7 different colours of buses to take you 7 different ways around Singapore and we could get on and off whenever we liked.  


Of course it was a topless double decker so we were upstairs and plugged in our earphones and off we went.

Singapore has grown so much.  I remember when I first came here back in the late 60’s and there has been so much development but it has all been done on reclaimed land at a cost of billions and I mean billions of dollars.


Very much a financial hub as well as sporting events with a formula 1 track, tennis stadium, hotels on every corner and Orcard Rd now the most unbelievable shopping precinct.  Apartments in some areas in Singapore are well over the $4-6 million mark.  

We jumped off at Chimji which used to be an orphanage back before the fall of Singapore and has now been transformed into this very lovely 2 story eatery with restaurants and cafes, shops and parks.  


We had lunch there at an IndoChine restaurant sitting on the open verandah with fans and greenery everywhere.  

Even though Singapore is a very modern city there is still a lot of the old British Raj and colonial influences everywhere and am pleased to say that all the beautiful old buildings have been preserved. 

Of course had to have a wander around Raffles.  It is under major renovations and these days you can’t just walk in to have a look.  


We decided to hop back on the bus and go somewhere else but we got a bit lost trying to find the bus stop and having walked around a bit discovered we had passed it and gone around the block a few times.

Luckily for us it was a coolish day in Singapore with a lovely breeze and not too humid.  Still had our fans with us though.

Found the bus stop hopped on the bus and went to China town.  


That was fabulous. Lots of little streets with Chinese lanterns strung together over the roads and lots of cooked chooks and ducks in the windows.  Everything was outdoors and people were trying to entice you into their establishment with photos of what they had on offer.  

Then there were all the shops selling Chinese good luck tassels and waving gold cats. The atmosphere was fantastic.

We opted to sit and have a cold beer.

We had been told of this great satay night market which we looked up on google maps and saw it was only a 10 minute walk away so off we went but had to stop at the Moosehead for an Aperol spritzer first.


We got to the markets and walked around and couldn’t find any satay stands anywhere but it turned out that they were on the side of the road and they closed the street off and put tables and chairs on the street but not until 7pm. 


We found a table outside of the market just by the street and had a jug of beer while we waited.    It was freezing cold which was wonderful.


Came 7pm and satays were being cooked everywhere with the coals being fanned to get the heat and us being smoked out.  Great fun.  

You can get a small lot of satays which is 10 chicken, 10 beef and 5 prawn satays with the most fabulous satay sauce or if there is a big group it can go up to 75 sticks.


So after a big day out in the thriving metropolis of Singapore it was time to take our weary bodies home.  

But before we went to bed went down for another swim in the fabulous pool.  

Today (Wednesday) dawned with not a cloud in the sky but hot so jo and I decided we would spend the morning by the pool.  

We virtually had this massive 50m pool to ourselves so enjoyed a swim and lie in the sun.

Lunchtime arrived before we knew it so headed off to pick up our hop on hop off bus again.  Wanted to start in little India today so got a cab over and then just wandered.  It is the festival of Deepavali for the Indian community so the streets were all decked out with bunting and lights.  Of course we were there during the day so didn’t see them lit up


Little India is a very big place so we walked for a while and took in the atmosphere


We had read in our guidebook that there was a restaurant in little India that had been awarded a Michelin bib for the best Biryani in Singapore so that is where we headed for lunch




It was delicious. We then set off to find out hop on hop off bus and get back into touring. 

There was another place we had been recommended to try for drinks but when we found out it didn’t open until 5 we decided to take the bus back to the start and hop off the blue line and get on the brown line as that was going to take us to where we wanted to go.  

We were a bit early so popped into the shops for a spot of shopping.  Both Jo and I found a lovely pair of shoes each and then we were off

Had been told about this bar on the roof of the National Art Gallery called ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. Got of the bus at the front door and headed to the right tower and up in the lift.

Got to this bar and it was fantastic had a 180degree view of Singapore with the Marina Bay Sands hotel right in front of us.

 

We had a fabulous table with Morticia Addams chairs and ordered drinks and nibbles and just sat and took it all in


We had a bit of a plan for the evening so left there went across town to do a spot of duty free shipping and then back to the Gardens by the Bay.  What an amazing display and installation



It then connected back from the other side of the Marina Sands Hotel


It was pretty spectacular and we wanted to get back to the hotel and go up to the boat on the top to have a drink and see the laser and water show they put on in the bay!


As we walked through the shoppes under the hotel Jo pointed out this shop called TWG.  It is a tea shop with very expensive teas and their teabags come in muslin bags.  



They silver Samovars that were over $6,000. 

So after our final aperitif on the top of the Hotel it was time to head home as it had been a big day


So I am signing off from Maggie’s moseying through Europe as I fly back to Australia tomorrow. 

I hope you have all enjoyed my adventures as much as I have.

I think I may find it a little difficult to come back down to earth and resume a normal life but I have had the best holiday and feel so much better for it.

So until my next adventure I am signing off and thank you all for the replies, the comments and reading it all.

Adios, hasta luego, hasta mañana, ciao and goodbye

Maggie

My last day in the UK

Another dawns with a sprinkling of sun and a bit windy but still warm.  

Had a lazy morning and then off to lunch at Martins Pond pub at Potten End.  

So cute and just off the village green.  We had a booking and was really looking forward to my ploughmans lunch.  



It was such a lovely lunch with lots of laughs, good food, wine and company.   It will be very sad to say goodbye tomorrow as I have had such a lovely time with Laura, Mike and Mrs Baker but I will be back or we will meet in Europe soon.  

A short blog today as my next one may be in Singapore.  Flying out at 11am tomorrow to stay with Jo then home.  

Toodleoo and pip pip from London.

A day in the country

Woke this morning to the most stunning day.  Not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind. I think England must of known I was coming because I can’t complain about the weather.  

Mike was off to London and Laura had things to do and work in the afternoon so I decided to have a train free day and go and walk around this beautiful countryside.  



Right beside where the house is there is a Roman road so I was off to explore.  It had been almost 2 weeks since I finished walking the Camino and I needed to put the boots on and do some walking.  


I know everyone gives the UK such a hard time about the weather but the countryside is beautiful.  So green with rolling hills and when the sun is shining there is nothing like it in the world.  

Set off up the Roman road and the first thing I saw was a squirrel run across in front of me and up a tree.  Oh how I love the country! 


Next thing I come across are cyclists out riding and horseback riders.  

Then guess what I came across a winery!   I know it was just on 11 but I had to drop in.   It was very cute and more like a tea shop than a winery but the girl was lovely and wasn’t shocked when I asked for a tasting.   The saddest thing was they had sold out of or run out of all their wines except a pink sparkling which was sealed with a bottle top like a beer bottle.   Had a taste but when she said the price of a bottle was £29 I decided I didn’t like it that much and also didn’t want to carry it all day on my walk.  


Said goodbye and headed off down the track to Alford where I was met by a gorgeous collie dog and a gentleman walking him. We had a chat and I headed off over the hill and on well signposted public walkways.  It was so gorgeous it was like being in another world and so much better than sitting on a train! 

I came across the berkhamsted common and a WW1 memorial. Then walked through the golf club and off down the hill into berkhamsted 


When Laura had dropped me at the station over the last few days I had noticed a sign saying Castle 50m. But for the life of me couldn’t see one.  Well on my walk I went to investigate and it turns out it was berkhamsted castle which was given to the very first duke of Cornwall back in 1077. It had a moat and even though it was a ruin the walls were still there. 




Walked on into the village of berkhamsted and had a coffee in the sun and then walked along the canal. 


Squirrels everywhere and ducks 


As I wandered back through the beautiful countryside I saw a sign that said WW1 trenches.   I was of course curious so took the path that led off into the Bush.  

I didn’t think the war had come to this part of the country but it turns out that berkhamsted was the training camp for all the soldiers that enlisted.  The trenches were still there and amazing That they were still in good condition 



As I was heading home decided to stop in at the Alford Arms for lunch


And admired all the beautiful and old houses 


Home and a quiet night.  And tomorrow we are all off to lunch at Potten End for lunch and my long awaited ploughmans lunch

Nighty night

Taunton 

Today I got a train back down to Somerset to visit a friend of mine that I used to work with a Lloyd’s bank in Reading when I lived in London back in the 70’s. 

Have always kept in touch with Jan and I had emailed her and suggested I come down and have a night with her.

Back on the train – I am thinking that I now have shares in GWR Great Western Railways – I have been on so many trains but a quick and easy way to get around.  

Jan met me at the station and we virtually did not stop talking, eating, drinking, laughing and catching up for the 24 hrs I was there.  It was so wonderful to see her again after nearly 18 years 

We hardly left the house as we talked and ate and drank and laughed and caught up with a lot of news in both our lives.   

We got up this morning and took Tilly, Jan’s dog for a lovely walk along the canal and it was lovely.




So after a wonderful 24 hours of a huge catch up it was back on the train and back up to Paddington and  on to Berkhamsted back to Laura and Mike’s.  


I think I will have a rest from riding on trains tomorrow.  

A most exciting thing happened before I went down to Taunton. I had said to Laura and think I have mentioned in my blog that I really want a ploughman lunch.  

I mentioned to Laura and Mike that we should go out and celebrate my birthday and their wedding anniversary on the weekend as a final farewell for lunch before I leave the next day.  

We googled a few local pubs and this is the new age of upmarket pub food so no one does ploughmans lunch. 

I got on the phone and rang the little pub in Potten End and spoke to a girl and I explained to her my predicament about trying to have a ploughmans lunch before I went back to Australia.  She told me that ploughmans lunches were a summer thing but she would talk to the chef.  

2 minutes later she came back and told me the chef would be more than happy to make one for me so we are booked into Martins Pond pub at Potten End for lunch on Saturday and I will get my wish of a ploughmans lunch before I go home!  

Watch this space for photographic evidence.  

Nighty night 

London Adventure 

I keep getting emails from you all saying you are having blog withdrawals but you have no idea the pressure I am under to have a great holiday and blog!!!

Having said that I am now on a train heading to Taunton in Somerset so have heaps of time to fill you all in on what has been happening. 

When I last signed off I think I was about to head out to choir practice. 

What a great night. Laura sings in an Accapella choir and they are fantastic.  Very professional and there is something about a choir with pure voices and no music.  Just loved it and would you believe there were 2 other Australians there to watch their cousin so we all sat up the back and pretended we were Britain’s got talent and gave them points.  They all won the competition. 


The next day, Tuesday, Laura and I went to London and what a day it was.  

First of all Laura decided to drive to Amersham and do the park and ride thing as Amersham was within the limits of London so could use my Oyster card.

It was a grey day but it wasn’t raining and incredibly mild.  I had 5 layers on and Laura had her puffer jacket on.  

Got to Amersham and they were doing building works on the car park so after driving all the way to the top, doing my ‘Hail Mary full of grace find me a parking space’ then driving around the neighbourhood trying to find a car park we eventually gave up and went back to  Chesham and found a park in their park and ride and got on the train and we were off.

We were in stitches laughing by this stage as Mike had said he was driving to London but wasn’t going until 11.30ish. Well by the time we got on the train we could have gone with him but I got to see a lot more of the countryside.   

We had made a plan for when we got to London that we would go to the French consulate in the hope that they could help with the french website to retrieve my parcel that was somewhere in France.  

Did the tube which was sooooo hot and stuffy that we were peeling our clothes off and arrived in South Kensington where the consulate was carrying most of our clothes. 

I was the perfect tourist.  First building we came to across the road from the consulate was the National history museum and they had obviously done it up as the building outside was all clean and fabulous.  As I have said before I just love the history and the amazing old buildings.  


As we arrived at the consulate the door opened and a very large black man was standing there.   I spoke with him and explained that my parcel that I had posted in France to Spain had been returned to France and needed someone to speak the language to help me get it back.  He was very lovely and explained that they were pretty busy with visa applications and other things but if I went around the corner to the Institute Francois they could probably help me.  

Off we went me playing the tourist and taking photos at every opportunity and Laura and I laughing and having a fun time as well.  

Got around the corner and right across the road was the College of Psychic Studies with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle being the President.  Just have to digress here to say that we did get off and change trains at Baker St, for all you Sherlock fans. 


Went into the Institute and again explained my situation about my lost parcel and the lady very kindly suggested I go up to the library on the 1st floor and someone would be able to help me.  

All I can say is with all our fiddling around to get to London by the time we got there it was lunchtime so very quiet.   

Spoke to a lovely man called Nicholas who was incredibly helpful. Looked up the website, rang them and when there was no answer he set us up on a computer on the website, translated the french and I sent a request for them to send it to Laura’s address in the UK.   

Nicholas was so wonderful and helpful and of course we have no idea if it will turn up but I went and bought him a bottle of NZ wine and he was amazed that I had done that for him.  But as I said I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without his help as I don’t have the language.   

So the business for the day was over and it was now time to play.

We made our way back to south Kensington station still carrying all our jackets as it was incredibly mild.  Of we were laughing and I was taking photos all the time.  


Got on the very hot stuffy tube and went to St Paul’s.  It was lovely as there weren’t many tourists and it was so peaceful in there.  Got some headphones for the history and we just wandered.  It was very beautiful and we were hoping to get right up to the top of the spire but it was having maintenance done so couldn’t get there.   Went up the the whispering gallery instead and it was fabulous.  I took a couple of photos and was promptly chased and told I wasn’t allowed to take photos.  They didn’t ask me to delete them or anything so got some great shots.  Of course St. Paul’s was bombed during the war and it was also where Chuck and Di got married. We went down to the crypt where Christopher Wren, lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington were buried but then so was Florence nightingale, William Blake and so many other famous/ well known people.  Oh the history.


We went back up to the cathedral floor and just sat and it was so beautiful.  

Had no plan of where we were going so just decided to walk.  Right outside St. Paul’s is Fleet St but as Laura told me no newspapers are there anymore.  Walked past the courts of justice and came to St Martin on the Field and there in front of us was Australia House.  




There is so much building going on and cranes and traffic jams. It was just like home.   We then took a left and came down onto the embankment and there was cleopatra’s needle right across from the royal festival hall.  The London Eye, Westminster and Scotland Yard.  Big Ben was having work done so that was covered in scaffold.  I just played the wide eyed tourist taking photos at the drop of a hat as there was just famous building upon famous building beside one another.  


By this time it was about 6ish so decided to call it a day and what a great day it was.   We turned into embankment tube station and started our way back home on the lovely hot tubes and of course it was peak hour by this time.   

We eventually got to the station to get the train home to discover that the train to chesham were few and far between so we got a fast train to Amersham and got a cab to our car.   

It was an hilarious and fun day up in the big smoke but we were tired and dehydrated by the time we got home so shoes off and a glass of wine and it was instant refresh. 

It will be very interesting to see if I get my parcel back but as I have said after my Camino adventure they are only material possessions that can be replaced.

Toodleooo for now 

Lost in time in England

35 years since I have been back to the UK and of course I have noticed changes.  

I arrived by train from Plymouth on Friday evening and there was Laura my school friend that I haven’t seen for 15 years, waiting for me at the station.  Needless to say over the next 3 days we have not stopped talking, laughing, talking, laughing, eating and drinking and sleeping and talking  and laughing.  It was like we just saw each other last week.   

Laura’s mum lives with them and it was so lovely to see her and Mike, Laura’s husband as well.  To make things even better the sun has shone for 3 days!!!!


Today is Monday and Laura had to work and so I have got the train to Watford to meet and old friend Anne,from Sydney who has been living here for 14 years.  We did our massage course together.  

Unfortunately due to significant changes in temperature I have had a little head cold but well on the mend now.

Yesterday Bruce, Laura’s brother came over and it wonderful to see him after such a long time.  He was taking Mrs Baker out to lunch so Laura got in the car and headed off for a little tiki tour around the area.  


I had forgotten how lush and green and beautiful the English countryside is.  Green rolling hills, little country lanes that should really only be one way but somehow two cars get past each other.  


Just like Spain there is a church spire, sometimes 2 in every village but they are Anglican churches and not as ornate as the catholic ones of Spain.   


There are a lot of castles, old monasteries and of course the history of it all.  


Laura lives just outside Berkhamstead which is about 40 minutes by train from London in a very cute house in a tiny village which is gorgeous.  Mike, her mum and 2 mad cats as well as the Beast of Bodmin (a stray from up the road) make up the household and I am loving being here and spending time with them all.  

Yesterday on out tiki tour we ended up at the Greyhound pub for lunch.  As seems to be the way of the world now everyone goes out for Sunday lunch so we found the pub which was where Bruce  and Mrs Baker were having lunch and sat in the window with a glass of wine and a steak and mushroom pie. Yumm!





My aim is to try and have a good old ploughman lunch while I am here but everyone has gone upmarket and it doesn’t feature on the menu anymore.  I won’t give up though.  

Today I went to Watford and met and old friend of mine that I did my massage course with 15 years ago. We had a lovely lunch and a huge catch up


Am off to choir practice this evening with Laura and hoping they don’t ask me to sing as a bit scratchy with the cold!!!!

Toodle ooo from old blighty!